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School offers unique learning opportunities to studentsSubmitted: 01/08/2014
Story By Lauren Stephenson

School offers unique learning opportunities to students
LAND O'LAKES - When we think of middle school, we think of sitting at a desk, and taking lots of quizzes and tests.

But students at the SOAR Charter School don't identify with any of that.

"I love it. It's a great opportunity for lots of people who like to be very independent with their work," says 6th grader Lily Tyler.

She started at the brand new SOAR Charter School in Land O'Lakes this year.

"SOAR is a charter school to give kids an alternative way to learn. It's a project-based school focusing on 21st century skills," says SOAR Charter School principal Scott Foster.

Those skills include interviewing adults and giving presentations.

The students practice those skills often.

Students learn by designing their own projects, instead of taking classes, like math, language arts and science.

"I've done one on Lyme Disease because I had Lyme Disease this summer. I'm doing one on the Olympics, one on Pueblo Indians, and one on the University of Notre Dame," explains 5th grader Cooper Cox.

"They do their projects on what they want, but then we give them those Common Core standards that they have to meet so they tweak their projects to meet those," explains SOAR advisor Don Anderson.

Students take district and state tests because SOAR is a public school.

But they don't get any tests or quizzes from their teachers.

They learn by doing hands-on work by going out in the field.

"We go on field studies as often as we can. We did a real cool one at Bond Falls. The kids took all kinds of water quality samples, and we're going to send that information into the Forest Service so they'll have that data," adds Anderson.

Some people may question the effectiveness of independent study, but educators say their formula works.

"I think the thing I've noticed so far as a principal in two different schools is the amount of engagement these kids have," says Foster.

"You just have to be ready to work hard. And as long as you make sure that you're very focused on your work, I think that anybody who wants to come will do well," says Tyler.

SOAR has spots open for students from any district.

You can apply through the end of the month.

There will also be a meeting for parents interested in sending their children to the SOAR Charter School.

It will be held on Thursday, January 9th at 6 p.m. in the Large Group Instruction room at Northland Pines Middle School.

You can find a link to the SOAR website below.

Related Weblinks:
SOAR Charter School

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